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FORMING THE CALIFORNIA FIREMEN'S MUSTER ASSOCIATION
fire departments renewed their interest in mustering during the 1960's. The Mother
Lode Firemen's Association led the way by hosting an annual muster at Columbia State Park
held on the first weekend in May. By the 1970's thirty to forty fire departments
were present representing their cities at Columbia. In addition, Benicia and
Pleasanton were holding annual musters and other departments began hosting musters in
their own communities. On almost every weekend during the summer you could attend a
muster. It was hard to choose which ones to attend. During this time, there
were no standard competition rules, each city made up its own rules. At one muster,
a team would use three lengths of hose on a hose cart. Then the very next week in
another town the race was conducted with five lengths of hose. The bucket brigade
was contested in one town with five members on a team, and in another with six members.
Each bucket brigade competition had different course distances with different
bucket and tank sizes. As muster participation increased it became evident that
safety for participants and the viewing public was also becoming a problem.
By the end of the 1974 muster season several departments began exchanging ideas on how to improve the musters by standardizing the rules, instituting safety procedures and consolidating the muster schedule.
On November 2, 1974, at the call of Captain Ron Rice of the Benicia Fire Department, 37 fire departments came together to form a state muster organization. At this meeting held in Benicia, Captain Rice outlined previously discussed ideas regarding rules, safety and mustering under the direction of a state organization. That day the California Firemen's Muster Association was formed. Ron Rice was elected president, Luke Goodrich of San Jose, was elected vice-president and eight directors were also elected and a secretary/treasurer was appointed.
The new association voted to "sanction" five musters each year, offer state championships in the three competition events: bucket brigade, hose cart racing and hand engine pumping. Committees were formed to establish contest rules for each event and the safety procedures needed at the sanctioned musters. There was a director in charge of each committee. President Rice suggested that the contest rules generally follow how the equipment was used in the fire service without modification.
Membership meeting were held monthly. At the January meeting it was voted to add a motorized event if contest rules could be established. The committees began reporting back the findings from their trial runs.
The hand engine committee suggested using the rules from Columbia, pumping for distance, a measurement from the nozzle line to the farthest drop of water landing inside a marked course.
The bucket committee tried teams of five and six people. Should it be six people and a distance of 23 feet 6 inches or should the distance be 24 feet 8 inches between fill and dump tanks? What size buckets should be used? It was decided to go with what was being used at most musters, a team of five at a distance of 20 feet, moving fifty gallons of water from the fill tank to the finish dumping tank using 2 1/2 gallon round bottomed buckets, if they could be found.
The hose cart committee ran the hose carts with different amounts of hose. When five or six lengths of fifty foot hose were tried, the teams became exhausted from the length of the course. It was decided that four lengths of hose on a cart worked well. The hydrant was moved here and there to establish a spot near the end of the course. Eventually, the course was moved here and there as the stationary in service street fire hydrants were used for all test runs. After days of practice the committee came back to the meeting with a suggested event.
The motorized committee, filled with members of SPAMFAA, the Society of the Preservation and Appreciation of Motorized Fire Apparatus in America, met in Hayward on weekends using the department's 1923 Seagrave as the test rig. Hose was loaded and reloaded using different amounts and trying different course layouts. Runs were tried in different directions. The committee came back with two suggestions, a fire to hydrant run and hydrant to fire run, both with four lengths of hose on the course.
Surprisingly the hose cart and motorized committees came back with course layouts of about the same distance for both events. Both used a three hundred foot course with the same start line, target spot, nozzle line. Both contests used four lengths of hose. Only small modifications were needed to make a standard muster association course that could be used for several events.
The cornerstone of the safety committee's suggestions was that an adequate public address system must be used at each sanctioned muster. The public address must be capable of reaching all areas of the muster course and the emergency escape routes for the viewing public.
The competition and safety rules, and general criteria for a sanction muster that were brought back to the organization by the committees were approved by the membership with only minor changes. The wisdom of the founding members has been proven by the fact that these events and their rules have remained virtually the same over the years.
Copyright California Fireman's Muster Association 2005
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